V138: Music's Mona Lisa

V138: Music's Mona Lisa

V138: Music's Mona Lisa

Mrs. Del Giocondo was the world’s most-known Lisa for a half millennium. That era has ended.

Mrs. Del Giocondo was the world’s most-known Lisa for a half millennium. That era has ended.

Photography: MOK JUNG WOOK

Styling: PARK MIN HEE

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

This story appears in the pages of V138: The Sound of V issue—now available for purchase!

10.2 million people visit the Mona Lisa each year. In comparison, 80.2 million people watch Lalisa Manobal’s every move on Instagram. Of course, visiting a museum is one thing—images flashing on your screen is another. But somehow, Lisa del Giocondo, the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s ubiquitous portrait, likely finished in 1517, is no longer the most famous “Lisa” in the world. (And let’s not even discuss that Simpson.) Just check Google, where Lisa (of BLACKPINK) was more commonly searched for than the painting in the past five years. In a big way, the name is where the (seemingly ludacris, but not really) comparison stops. Del Giocondo was of course not, for example, one of the world’s biggest K-pop artists as Lisa is, thanks in no small part to her membership in BLACKPINK— a group of four who’ve made music industry history by being the first female K-pop ensemble to top Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart, setting a new world record on YouTube with their video for the track “Kill This Love,” which racked up 56.7 million plays in 24 hours. Even if the entire South Korean population had streamed the video that day, they’d still be five million short of hitting that number.

This isn’t at all surprising at this point—K-pop has now been a global phenomenon for years, racking up numbers that make religious followings and entire countries’ populations seem humble. Even within the nearly unlimited confines of BLACKPINK’s success, Lisa was always an exception. She is both a rapper and vocalist, giving her a certain edginess that colors outside the lines of Aegyo— which Collins Dictionary defines as “denoting a Korean cultural style that emphasizes the quality of cuteness.” Don’t get me wrong, Lisa is cute, but she drops bars with a particular bite that’s unmatched by her rivals.

Dress Celine by Hedi Slimane / Jewelry Bulgari

It is perhaps surprising, given the unthinkable numbers that surround Lisa (the fans, the streams, the ticket sales), or her larger-than-life presence on stages and screens, that she’d be so remarkably nonchalant and discreet in person. But on June 1, 2022, her entrance into a suburban house in the Jongno neighborhood of Seoul, South Korea went largely unnoticed, even by the V editors and the team shooting her. In real life, she’s nothing short of humble, human, but nearly heavenly in beauty. Her angelic quality resounds in the photos captured by longtime friend Mok Jung Wook (the da Vinci of our story). In front of nearly 30 locals, Lisa is unintimidated and carefree in front of the camera.

All clothing Celine by Hedi Slimane / Jewelry Bulgari

Her face is literally printed onto stickers that cover the set’s catered dishes, an ode to her magnitude, and yet in the very same room is a girl under 5'5", giggling about her Doberman named Love, graciously thanking everyone for each shot before quickly changing into new looks. In this rented house, presumably, where a family once lived, she is the perfect girl next door; a fantasy both big and small, all at the same time. It’s hard to believe that the person talking about Paris Fashion Week with wide eyes—“Will you be there too?”—she asks, sweet as can be—is the same one whose solo music video debut for the track “LALISA” was the most-viewed YouTube release from any singular female artist in the world.

Dress Celine by Hedi Slimane / Jewelry Bulgari
All clothing Celine by Hedi Slimane / Jewelry Bulgari
All clothing MIU MIU, Jewelry BULGARI

Such is life in 2022. As for the future, your guess is as good as ours. It’s a mystery, not unlike the famously difficult task of determining Mona Lisa’s facial expression in her world-renowned rendering. Like the painting, Lalisa Manobal remains fairly bewildering, the details of her personal life or anything behind-the-scenes being largely unknown to the public. In this way, the global superstar is similarly immortalized, small in the flesh and yet larger than life.

This story appears in the pages of V138: The Sound of V issue—now available for purchase!

Credits:
Creative Direction Stephen Gan / Hair Lee Seon-Yeong / Makeup Myungsun Lee / Manicurist Park Eunkyung / Set Designer Kwon Do Hyung / Executive Producer Lee Kyung Kim at BL Creative House / Producer Jeffrey Jin / Coordinator Lee Yeong Woo

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